I am grateful to have been nutured as an artist and communicator through my 15 year relationship with IslandWood. Each year, while serving as an Artist in Residence, I’ve met nearly 3,000 wonderful people that have changed my life in some way. Young people that I would have never chanced to meet. Outstanding teachers, scientists, cultural leaders, and artists, all who brilliantly share their passion for connecting young people with the natural world.
I came to IslandWood this March in a slightly different capacity. I was invited to be an “Artist in the Woods”. This was different in that I was able to select one of my own projects to focus on for two full weeks.
Luckily, I was able to share brief sessions with small groups of young people on campus during those weeks. Connecting with these bright students reminds me that this project is valid and important to do while I can.
The project I’m focusing on I hope will helpful to the excellent teachers I meet. So many graduate students and classroom teachers contact me each year requesting I come and work with their students. I don’t have the resources to do this, but I can see there is an interest and a need. These vibrant educators are looking for ways to connect the young people in their lives with the rhythms and lessons of natural world.
I decided to document some of the best plant fiber projects I’ve done with students over the past thirty years of teaching. Perhaps one of the greatest reasons I love sharing the skills of how to make useful objects using the humblest of materials, is that it allows students to participate in the beautiful story of transformation. This is a story we all participate in, and the lessons contained in plant fiber technologies are endless!
So I filled Learning Lab 103 with twenty-nine of my favorite plant fiber projects, and asked each group of students and their teachers to cast up to 4 votes for the projects examples that looked the most fun, or interesting to them.
I knew the students could only base their votes upon what they saw, not what they experienced through the “making process”. But their opinions are important to me because they know what they like!
I did offer a small project to involve each group of students into some experience of making with plants. I brought in Western Red Cedar inner bark for students to divide into layers; cedar branches, NW estuary sweet grass, cattail leaves, scouring rush, and twigs. Groups made either: Cordage bracelets, Maori knot projects, Nature bead necklaces, or Twig Loom necklaces.
After my sessions with the students were done, I would spread out all my lesson files, and worked to “storyboard” the lessons by seasons. I used lots of “sticky-notes” to catch ideas and concepts that I want to be sure I don’t forget to explain, define, or give examples of.
OK, so far I’ve got an outline for the publication, with the votes by students counted, and those projects selected and organized within the Seasonal Round, which is the name for the annual concept of time presented through the IndianEd.org, Sovereignty Curriculum of Washington State.
I’ve got lots of work ahead to do, and hope to chip away at the instructional drawings for the selected projects each week synchronously with the plants I am working with this spring and summer.
I am scheduled in August to teach a workshop for teachers that bares the title of this project: WEAVING NATURE – PLANT FIBER PROJECTS BLENDING CULTURE, SCIENCE & ART. The weekend workshop will be held all day August 26-27 with a public presentation on Friday evening August 25, at the Bainbridge Artisan Resource Network, on Bainbridge Island.
Thank you to all those at IslandWood who have encouraged me and made this time possible, giving this project a great start and supporting the transfer of this practical information that can empower young people to be “makers” and good stewards of the earth.